Autumnal Glory

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Common Redstart

1Dx,600f4.0ii,1×4,1/640@f8,iso800

My plan was simple, to place myself for a few days along the East coast of the UK to enjoy the autumn migration of birds. The first days were spent at Spurn Point at the tip of the Humber estuary, a prime migration hotspot . Its has been many years since I’ve visited the area so I arrived with lots of excitement  to what I might get to photograph. It would not disappoint . The previous weeks along the coastline have been a migration to remember with lots of rare and common migrants making landfall. Siberian Accentor,Red-flanked Bluetails,Eastern-crowned Warbler to name just a few of the incredible birds which made a lot of people happy. My plan was a bit different as I love to experience more of the common birdlife and capture some images and just enjoy the moment.

The Common Redstart( probable 1st winter female) image was a classic case on how I like to work. By staying with a subject which is tolerant you come back with a great variety of images instead chasing around  just recording lots of different images of various birds which turn into just ‘snaps’. This bird I actually photographed over two days providing me with many memorable images. A bird I have not had much luck with in the past,so I was more than happy with the results and the experience of photographing a bird on its southward migration.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

Goldcrest Regulas regulas,adult female perched on twig,Yorkshire,UK,October

 1Dx,600f4.0ii,2xiii,1/1600@f11,iso800

Another species which were about in large numbers were the Goldcrest, At times I even had these tiny birds flying in-between my legs and fluttering before my face. Just great fun to watch and photograph. I never turn an opportunity down no matter how many times I’ve captured an image of a species, there’s always something different,lighting,backgrounds,feeding habits all change so “fill your boots” no matter what. Another bird species which  seemed to be everywhere was the Chiffchaff. Although common in the UK in spring/summer, I photographed this species whenever the situation looked good and used my attitude of photographing what’s in front of me and “fill your boots”. Are you getting the idea now?

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

chiffchaff

1DX,600f4.0ii,1×4,1/500@5.6,iso1600

Another bird which was extremely frustrating to capture an image of was the Yellow browed Warbler, although I managed a few frames of this hyper active species it was in dappled sunlight with harsh sunspots, not ideal. I will have to wait for my next chance which hopefully might be this coming autumn. Jack snipe also was a bird i’ve never photographed before so after three attempts my chance came during a heavy rain shower and I watched with marvel at this bird’s feeding behaviour of bobbing while searching for food. The seven birds also made for great viewing which for the most part were very heavily camouflaged in the reeds,but I did capture a couple of birds which fed briefly in the open.Happy times.

Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)

Jack Snipe

1DX,600f4.0ii,1×4,iso1600

Moving up the coastline to Bempton to view more migrant birds and visit a friend added another new species of bird which I haven’t photographed before which was the Red-breasted Flycatcher. The bird had been around for a week or so and had been showing very well so I didn’t miss my chance when the bird landed on an exposed branch among some tall trees at eye level.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)

Red Brested Flycatcher

1DX,600f4.0ii,1×4,1/500@5.6,iso1250

So a great taste of migration and all it can offer. My approach is different to most at this time of year ignoring the mega’s in favour of quality time with the common. I was disappointed to miss out on the Eastern-crowned Warbler several days before , but hopefully next time. The weather for the most part was nice with plenty of good light and I hadn’t travelled far.I managed to taste some nice beer and food and slept well. A really nice time full of great memories and plenty of birdlife.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

Goldcrest

Also a massive thanks to everyone who followed me and liked my posts in 2016. Have a wonder filled 2017.

‘The Grey Ghost’

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

hen-harrier

1dx,600ii,1.4,1/1250@5.6,iso 1600

 One of the UK’s most endangered birds and its sad to say it is losing its fight due to persecution. It will soon turn into a ghost. To watch this male hunting for over two hours in the company of a friend must be one of the most enjoyable wildlife experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. Normally if I’ve ever watched a Hen Harrier its been whist watching over an expanse of marsh in the fading light of a winter’s day, viewing a distant dot through binoculars and usually a ringtail(female). Not on this day, although we only had a brief close view for photography, the memory will remain with me for life. Thanks to modern optics being lightweight and with super fast autofocus and incredible iso performance I managed a half decent image. I should  push the iso even higher to 3200 due to my handholding the 600 and the movement of the bird. I am still stuck in film days and keep my iso relatively low compared to some. I need to be braver in my decisions in the future.

It was interesting to watch the birds behaviour while hunting by flying very low over the stubble fields it was frequenting, searching for small birds and mammals. I’ve never watched this before for any length of time and how quickly you can lose site if you’re not constantly watching where it is going, especially if it dropped to the ground. What a moment and lets hope the UK can get its act together and sort out the issues with these wonderful birds. I hope future generations get a chance to watch  “The Grey Ghost’ of the marsh?

Magic Micro’s

Gypsonoma dealbana,adult micro-moth resting on edge of a leaf,Nottinghamshire,UK

                  Gypsonoma dealbana

 Discovering a tiny moth resting on a leaf while searching for insects this summer, opened my eyes to more amazing wildlife on my doorstep. A new field guide,’Field Guide to the Micro Moths’ by Sterling and Parsons, helped to try and identify this incredible group of moths. Now some of these moths are small and can take quite some finding when they are only just only a few millimetres in length. Most of my finds have been by accident when looking for other insects, so it’s a case of being alert to the chance you may just find one of these amazingly beautiful creatures.

Lozotaenoides formosana,adult micro-moth on Scots Pine bark,Norfolk,UK

Lozotaenoides formosana

Once you find and photograph any of the micro-moths you will become hooked on their beautiful colours,patterns and size. Photography isn’t easy due to their size but I always like some habitat around a subject whenever I can so having the subject fill the frame doesn’t worry me. A macro lens that goes to at least 1:1 is a must though. I just use a 1DX with a 100 2.8 macro lens and go and explore and have fun, although a macro flash system would be a nice advantage.

Lathronympha strigana,adult micro-moth on leaf,Nottinghamshire,UK

Lathronympha strigana

One of the downsides of micro-moths is the lack of very few common names so you need to brush up on your latin!Just get the field guide and enjoy. Being outside and exploring with the camera and discovering new creatures to photograph has to be the best medicine and the more you look,the more your discover.

Grapholita compositella,adult micro-moth on bramble leaf,Nottinghamshire,UK

Grapholita compositella

The species above was the first I photographed and to watch this moth dancing around atop this bramble leaf was wonderful,although I was shaking with excitement I had to be careful not to touch any of the nearby stems or leafs and thats not easy in a bramble patch!Also I’ve recently joined Instagram so come over and say hello,where I will be posting more regular images .https://www.instagram.com/malcolmhunt9228/

Nemophora degeerella,adult micro-moth on fern,Nottinghamshire,UK

Nemophora degeerella

Back in the Saddle

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Green-Woodpeckerjuv

Canon 1Dx,600mm, 1/160@7.1,iso1250

 A very busy year out in the field photographing has left me with no time for posting. Hopefully I can start to catch up with editing the thousands of images awaiting processing. I had been in my hide for two days photographing birds coming to drink and bathe in a small pond. Green Woodpeckers were hopping around literally a few feet in front of me, laughing at me of course as  they knew I couldn’t capture any kind of images, but what great fun to have nature so close and going about their daily lives. My moment would come on the second day when a juvenile decided to drink in the fading light of a hot summers day. All the heat and discomfort I had endured waiting in the hide disappeared and I rejoiced in the glorious moment. Naturally I invited a friend(gashuffer@flickr) to try his luck, thinking he would be in for a great chance. Nature had other plans and when I went to greet the weary hot human from the hide the face said it all,”No luck”!

My year so far has actually been filled with very little in the way of bird photography apart from my indulgence in seabirds and a small amount of time in spring chasing warblers, which proved to be very unrewarding. There was still plenty of nature to be enjoyed and summertime has seen me in the undergrowth battling with brambles and wild roses in search of insects. I don’t think I’ve ever photographed so many different species in such a short time and virtually all the work is local to my home which means less travelling and more time photographing.

Chrysotoxum festivum

hoverfly1DX, 100 macro,1/250@f13

A wonderful holiday in Spain in July gave me an unexpected chance to photograph a sight which evades most in the UK due to light pollution and that is to see the Milky Way. Stars laminated the nearby beach and with no major cities or large towns nearby the view of stars was nothing short of spectacular. I don’t get much chance to practice the skills required to produce spectacular images of the stars and the Milky Way on a regular basis, but I gave it a go. The beach was deserted, the skies were clear and I was set up with the camera on the edge of the surf with my best guess at exposure and composition(only one beer allowed at dinnertime for me) . I was rewarded during a time-lapse of the local fishermen going to fish in the bay which produced a light trail on the sea.

Heading to the stars

startrail2post

1DX,200ximages,24-70ii,1/15@2.8,iso3200

Hopefully I can capture some images of some birdlife this autumn and watch out for some exciting images captured during my adventures in the local bramble patch!

Fungi Foray Fun

Milking Bonnet (Mycena galopus)

Milking-Bonnet

Galleria laevis

Galerina-laevis

 I looked liked someone who had been on an army assault course, covered in mud and with a distinct earthy smell on all my clothes. What had I been doing? Well, having fun searching and photographing our natural world. A world full of species with names such as Bitter Poisonpie, Dotted Fanvault, Hairy Curtain Crust, its enough to make you roll around laughing with names like that. Photographing fungi in and around my surrounding woodlands has been a joy and with all the damp dull overcast weather of late, I’ve made the most of the conditions to keep exploring and discovering some wonderful species. Its just a matter of looking in suitable habitat and taking your time because some species are tiny and not very obvious to the naked eye. Of course I still maintain my standards in composition,lighting and keeping the subject in its environment all key factors in coming home with some great images. The identifying of some fungi remains a challenge but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the moment of seeing a new species for the first time. Expanding your horizon brings some incredible rewards not only on a personal level but also on a photography level bringing endless joy and great memories.

Variable Oysterling (Crepidotus variables)

Variable-oysterling2

Postia fragilis

Variable-Oysterling

Not many birds to point the lens at during the past few months so searching for fungi has been a welcome change and no huge lenses to carry around. I am already looking forward to what hopefully will be a very busy 2016 now with large parts of the year taken up with more than bird photography. Although it’s coming to the end of the fungi season there’s still some species waiting to send out their fruiting bodies and just waiting to be discovered. Have fun exploring. All images taken with a Nikon D4s,Tamron 180 macro.

Butter Cap (Collybia butyracea)

Butter-cap

Dead Man’s Fingers

Dead-man's-Fingers

Leap of Faith

Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)

Atlantic Salmon1

Nikon D4s, 600mm,1/800@F4,iso2000.

The plan was to visit a famous river in Yorkshire to hopefully capture a few images of Atlantic Salmon. The UK weather of course had other plans and dumped a whole load of  rain and mighty gusts of wind, plans scuppered! Maybe not, when a bit of research by a friend revealed another river only an hours drive away. Funtime was back on. The river was just at the correct levels for the Salmon to start leaping to clear a weir. One minute a huge male would leap right before our eyes, then another in the middle and then another at the far end of the weir. This was going to be a bit harder than first thought. All the action happens in such a fraction of a second that looking and trying to compose was totally out of the question. Only by aiming in a preconceived area of the weir with fingers on the shutter button,  would we have any chance of capturing the action. Our nerves were very frayed after a few hours but we had done ok and managed a few images that caught some of the incredible effort of these migrating Salmon. The rain was starting to fall quite heavily and time for home. We both decided that we had had so much fun that another attempt would be made the following day.

Atlantis Salmom

Nikon D4s,600mm,1/2000@f4.5,iso1250.

Although the water levels had risen from the previous day we managed some more images in slightly better light and the fun never stopped. I had captured many images but the usual tail missing or badly framed or even worse out of focus. Lots of ooooohhss and arrrr followed by cheers for the effort these incredible creatures were putting into carrying on their long journey back to the spawning grounds further upstream. We had witnessed something totally new and with some nice images in the bag, back too ‘Gashuffers’ for some crumpets and a hot cuppa. The rain didn’t stop us and nature rewarded us for our efforts.

A Fine Autumn’s Day

Ichneumon Wasp (Dolichomitus sp’)

_DSC8647

Nikon D4s,180macro,1/320@f8,iso800

The days plan was simple, go searching with a friend and go seeking out fungi in Sherwood Forest. We managed to find a few species and made some images. Now I wasn’t exactly brimming with excitement but it was nice to be outside walking among the old oaks. I was feeling quite mellow, just having a great time with a friend. All was about to change when we came upon a large log pile. My friend suddenly spotted a species of parasitic wasp, and boy was it big(70mm). My heart rate suddenly went up. We both captured a few images as the wasp searched out some unsuspecting larva munching away in the rotting wood. The wasp lays its egg into the victim where the egg develops and proceeds to eat its victim from inside. After a short time the wasp disappears where then I discovered a small larva of a moth.

White Ermine Moth Larva (Spilosoma lubricipeda)

moth-lavae

Nikon D4s,180macro,1/25@f16,1s0200

After finishing photographing the larva enjoying the wonderful autumnal sun I suddenly noticed the Wasp had settled onto a log and was probing for its victim. I moved into position and began to steady myself on a log to get eye level with the subject. The D4s was in overdrive, my friend was intrigued by the sounds of the shutter and came to investigate what I was up to, we both quickly took turns to ‘fill our boots’ with some amazing behaviour as the wasp stayed on the log for several minutes drilling for its prey. My friend and I had never witnessed such behaviour before and to get some amazing images was the icing on the cake. So, always keep your eyes open as exploring habitats can give some incredible rewards.

Ichneumon Wasp (Dolichomitus sp’)

_DSC8492

Nikon D4s,1/160@f7.1,iso800

Colours

Mandarin Duck (male)

Manderin

Nikon D4,600,tc20eiii,1/1600@f11,iso1000

 The wonder of birdlife in all its resplendent colours and textures, and an absolute joy to look through the viewfinder at on a cold winters day. Enjoy.

Happy Times

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

Bullfinch

Nikon D4s, 600, tc20eiii,1/800@f10,iso1000.

A rare chance this morning when I encountered a male Bullfinch perched in sunlight. Although I see Bullfinch often they are normally in flight or hidden deep within a dense hawthorn or blackthorn bush. Today was my only chance in many years to get a clean shot in wonderful light, I didn’t miss!